Home » » REASON TO BREATHE BY REBECCA DONOVAN : First Impression

REASON TO BREATHE BY REBECCA DONOVAN : First Impression

2. First Impression
While Sara and I walked to Journalism class, I could tel the lunch performance
was stil lingering. She looked enchanted, and it was a little
eerie. I paced alongside her in silence, hoping she’d snap out of it.
Upon entering class, I went straight to the computer with the oversized
screen and puled up the latest draft of this week’s Weslyn High
Times . Focused on the screen, I zoned out the scraping of chairs and
murmuring voices as everyone found their seats. I had to get this edition
to the printer before the end of class so it could be distributed in
the morning.
Faintly, I heard Ms. Holt gather everyone’s attention to review the
progress of the assignments for next week’s paper. I blocked out the
conversations. I continued scrutinizing the formatting, moving ads to
accommodate article space and inserting the photographs to compliment
the featured articles.
“Is it too late to consider another article for next week’s paper?”
The voice distracted me. I didn’t know this voice. The guy spoke
without hesitation, with a sense of purpose and confidence. I stared at
the computer screen without seeing what was in front of me, waiting.
The room was silent with anticipation. Ms. Holt encouraged him to
continue.
“I wanted to write an article about teenagers’ self-image and if they’re
able to accept their flaws. I’d like to interview students and hand out
surveys to find out what part of the body they’re most self-conscious
about.” I turned my chair around, interested in who would think of
such a controversial topic. “The article could reveal that despite a perceived
social status, everyone's insecure about something.” He glanced
over at me during his explanation, realizing I was paying attention.
Some of the other students also noticed I was no longer working on
the computer and were watching me, trying to decipher my pensive
expression.
The voice belonged to a guy I’d never seen before. As I listened to him
finish, I was irked by his request. How could someone, obviously
without flaws, think it would be okay to interview emotionaly vulnerable
students to reveal something they didn’t like about themselves?
Probably confiding an insecurity they had a hard time admitting to
themselves. Who’d want to openly discuss their embarrassing whiteheads,
or admit that they wore an A cup, or that they had the muscle
structure of a ten year old? It sounded cruel. The more I thought about
it, the more irritated I became. Honestly, who was this guy?
He sat in the back of the class wearing an untucked sky blue colared
shirt and a pair of perfectly fitted jeans. His sleeves were roled up and
the buttons undone enough to reveal his smooth skin and a hint of a
lean muscular frame.
The shirt complimented his steel blue eyes that moved across the
room, connecting with his audience. He appeared relaxed, even
though everyone in the class was staring at him. He probably expected
people to take notice of him.
There was something else about him that I couldn’t quite put my finger
on – he seemed older. He definitely looked like he was either a
junior or senior. He had a youthful face with a strong jaw that extended
to the angles of his cheekbones, complimenting his brow line and
straight nose that pointed to his perfectly defined lips. An artist
couldn’t have chiseled a better bone structure. When he spoke, he easily
captured everyone’s attention. He obviously got me to stop and take
notice. The projections in his tone made me think that he was used to
talking to a more mature audience. I couldn’t decide if he seemed distinguished
or just arrogant – he was so confident. I leaned towards
arrogance.
“Interesting idea…” Ms. Holt began.
“Seriously?” I interjected before I could stop myself. I could feel fourteen
pairs of eyes shifting toward me. I even caught a couple of mouths
dropping open out of the corner of my eye. My gaze remained focused
on the source of the voice. I found the perplexed smoky eyes looking
back at me.
“Let me get this straight, you want to exploit the insecurities of a
bunch of teenagers so that you can write an article exposing their
flaws? Don’t you think that’s a little destructive? Besides, we try to
write news in our paper. It can be entertaining and witty – but it
should always be news, not gossip.” He raised his eyebrows in what
appeared to be shock.
“That’s not exactly –” he began.
“Or are you planning to write an expos√© on how many girls want bigger
breasts and the number of guys who want bigger…” In my pause, I
heard a few shocked inhales. “.. um, muscles. Superficial and sleazy
may work for tabloids, or maybe that’s what you’re used to where you
come from. But I give our readers the benefit of assuming they have
brains.” There were a few muffled laughs. I didn’t flinch - I stared
intently into the unwavering blue eyes. There was a slight smirk on his
face. Was he amused by my verbal assault? I set my jaw in preparation
for his attack.
“I take my assignments seriously. I’m hoping my research wil uncover
how much we al have in common, regardless of our popularity or conceived
attractiveness. I don’t think the article wil exploit anyone, but
assure us that everyone has insecurities about their appearances, even
those who may be considered perfect. I respect the confidentiality of
my source, and I understand the difference between a puff piece and
actual news.” His voice was calm and patient, and yet I thought it was
patronizing. I could feel the heat rising in my cheeks.
“And you think you wil get honest answers out of people?
They wil realy talk to you?” There was a bite in my tone that I was not
used to hearing, and by the silence in the room, it was a surprise to
everyone else as wel.
“I have a way of getting people to open up and trust me,” he said with
a smile ful of conceit and narcissism.
Before I could rebut, Ms. Holt interrupted, “Thank you, Evan.”
She looked at me cautiously. “Emma, since you seem to have reservations
about this article, as the editor of the paper, would you be wiling
to permit Mr. Mathews to write the article, and then you can have the
final say as to whether it makes the cut?”
“I can agree to that,” I stated methodicaly.
“Mr. Mathews, is that acceptable to you?”
“I’m comfortable with that. She is the editor.”
Oh, he was pompous, wasn’t he?! I couldn’t stand to look at him any
longer. I turned back to the computer.
“Great,” Ms. Holt replied with relief. Then she directed her attention
back to me. “Emma, are you just about done with the computer? I’d
like to begin today’s discussion.”
“I’m sending it now,” I confirmed without looking back.
“Wonderful. Would everyone please open your textbooks to page
ninety-three, with the heading Journalism Ethics?” Ms. Holt attempted
to redirect the attention to the front of the class. I took my seat
next to Sara, feeling the lingering stares of shock upon me. I kept my
eyes glued to the book, unable to concentrate.
“What was that about?” Sara whispered, just as shocked. I shrugged,
not looking over at her.
After what felt like the longest fifty minutes, Journalism was finaly
over. When we were released into the hal, I couldn’t hold back any
longer. “Who does he think he is? How completely arrogant can a person
be?!”
Sara stopped when we rounded the corner, heading to our lockers. She
gawked at me like she didn’t recognize me. Not acknowledging her
confounded stare, I went on, “Who is he anyway?”
“Evan Mathews,” his voice said from behind me.
My back tensed, and I stared at Sara, mortified. I slowly turned toward
the voice with a reddened face. I couldn’t say anything. How much had
he heard?
“I hope I didn’t upset you too much by suggesting the article. I wasn’t
trying to offend you.”
It took me a minute to compose myself. Sara stood beside me, unwiling
to miss out on the front row seat of our confrontation.
“I wasn’t offended. I’m just looking out for the integrity of the paper.” I
tried to sound aloof, as if the interaction in class hadn’t bothered me.
“I understand. That’s your job.” He actualy sounded sincere, or was he
patronizing me again?
I changed the subject. “Today your first day?”
“No,” he said slowly, appearing baffled. “I’ve been in class al week. Actualy,
I’m in a few of your other classes too.”
I looked to the floor and quietly said, “Oh.”
“I’m not surprised you didn’t notice. You seem pretty intense in class.
It’s obvious school’s important to you. You don’t seem to pay attention
to anything else.”
“Are you accusing me of being self absorbed?” I shot my eyes back up
at him, feeling my entire face flame up.
“What? No.” He smiled in amusement at my reaction.
I stared at him in offense. He held my glare, unblinking with his cold
gray eyes. How did I ever think they were blue? He was ful of himself,
and it repulsed me. I shook my head slightly in disgust and walked
away. Sara could only stare with her mouth ajar, as if having witnessed
a horrific car wreck.
“Where the hel did that come from?” she demanded, her wide eyes
glued to me as she strode alongside me. “I’ve never seen you act like
that before.” I couldn’t get over her astonishment. She almost sounded
disappointed.
“Excuse me?!” I shot back defensively, unable to look at her for more
than a second. “He’s a conceited jerk. I don’t care what he thinks of
me.”
“I thought he was just concerned that he hadn’t offended you in class.
I think he might even be interested in you.”
“Yeah, right,” I replied dismissively.
“Seriously, I know you’re extremely focused, but how did you not notice
him before today?”
“What, do you think I’m self absorbed too?” I snapped, regretting it as
soon as I said it.
Sara roled her eyes. “You know I don’t, so stop being stupid. I get why
you shut everyone out. I know how much you need to get through high
school, like every breath depends on it. But I also get how it looks to
everyone else.
“It’s just accepted that this is who you are, so no one realy pays attention
anymore. Your lack of,” she hesitated, looking for the right word,
“interest is expected. I think it’s amazing that a guy, who’s only been
here a week, has picked up on your intensity. He’s obviously noticed
you.”
“Sara, he’s not that perceptive,” I accused. “He was just trying to recover
from the blow he took to his ego in class.”
She let out a quick laugh with a shake of her head. “You’re impossible.”
I opened my locker, then looked over at Sara before putting my books
away. “He’s realy been here al week?”
“Don’t you remember when I mentioned the hot new guy during lunch
on Monday?”
“That was him?” I scoffed, shoving my books in my locker and flinging
the door shut. “You think he’s good looking?” I laughed like the
thought that he could be attractive was insane.
“Yeah,” she responded emphaticaly, like I was the one who was insane,
“along with like every girl in school. Even the senior girls are checking
him out. And if you try to convince me that he’s not gorgeous, I’m going
to slap you.”
This time, I roled my eyes. “You know what - I realy don’t want to talk
about him anymore.” I was oddly exhausted by the outburst of emotion.
I was never out of control, especialy in school
- with witnesses.
“You know everyone in school wil be talking about it. ‘Did you hear
Emma Thomas finaly snapped?’” Sara teased.
“Nice. I’m glad you’re finding this funny,” I shot back before walking
past her down the hal. Sara jogged to catch up, stil smiling.
As much as I wanted to forget it, I couldn’t help but replay the entire
scene over in my head while we walked to study period in the cafeteria.
We continued through the caf, where I could already hear the whispers,
and out the back doors that led to the picnic tables. Seriously,
what happened? Why did this guy bother me so much? I shouldn’t
care enough to be this upset. Honestly, I didn’t even know him. Then
my overreaction sunk in.
“Sara, I’m an idiot,” I confessed, feeling truly miserable. She was lying
down on the bench, taking in the warm rays, peeling back the straps of
her tank top to avoid tan lines – messing with every guy within eyeshot.
She sat up curiously and took in my agonized expression.
“What are you talking about?”
“I have no idea what happened to me in there. Realy, why should I
care if this guy writes an article about the imperfections of being a
teenager? I cannot believe I acted like that and then made a scene in
the hal. I’m completely humiliated.” I groaned and put my face down
in my folded arms.
Sara didn’t say anything. After a moment, I looked up at her, questioning.
“What? You’re not even going to try to make me feel better?”
“Sorry, I’ve got nothing. Em, you were pretty crazy in there,”
she remarked with a smirk.
“Thanks, Sara!” I connected with her smiling eyes and couldn’t hold
back. We simultaneously burst out laughing. It came out so loud that
the table next to us stopped mid-conversation to stare. I definitely
looked like I’d lost my mind now.
It took a ful minute for me to break through the hysterics. Sara tried to
stop, but smal bouts of laughter would escape whenever she’d look at
me.
She leaned toward me and lowered her giggling voice, “Wel, maybe
you can redeem yourself. He’s on his way over here.”
“No way!” My eyes widened in panic.
“I hope the laughing wasn’t about me.” It was that same confident,
charming voice. I closed my eyes, afraid to face him. I took a calming
breath and turned to look up at him. “No, Sara said something funny.”
I hesitated before I added, “I shouldn’t have gone off on you. I’m not
usualy like that.”
Sara started laughing again, probably replaying my mortifying moment
in her head. “Sorry, I can’t help it,” her eyes watering from trying
to hold it in. “I need to get some water.”
She left us alone. Oh no - she left us alone!
“I know,” he responded to my indirect apology. His perfect lips curled
up into a soft smile. I was surprised by the casualness of his response.
“Good luck in your game today. I heard you’re pretty good.” Without
alowing me to respond, he walked away. What just happened? What
did he mean he knows I’m not usualy like that? I stared at the spot
where he stood for half a minute, trying to comprehend what just
played out. Why wasn’t he upset with me? I couldn’t believe I was so
worked up, especialy over a guy. I needed to shake it off and be over it
- stay focused.
“He’s gone? Please don’t tel me you insulted him again!”
“No, I swear. He wished me luck in the game today and walked away.
It was… strange.” Sara raised her eyebrows, grinning.
“Oh, and I guess you could say he’s decent looking,” I mumbled. Sara’s
face lit up with a huge smile.
“He’s so mysterious, and I think he likes you,” she taunted.
“Come on, Sara. Now you’re being stupid.”
Somehow I completed the homework that was due the next day, despite
glancing around and searching for him every other minute. I
couldn’t get to the longer term assignments. I saved them for the
weekend. It’s not like I had anything else to do.
“I’m going to the locker room to get ready for the game.”
“I’l be down in a minute,” Sara replied, from her meditative spot on
the bench.
I gathered my books and walked through the cafeteria. I did
everything I could to stare straight ahead so I wouldn’t look for Evan –
unsuccessfuly.
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